IWJ and our affliates are doling out support for the Chicago Teacher Unions. IWJ's local affiliate in Chicago, ARISE Chicago, is working with other community groups supporting the strike. Yesterday, IWJ national staff visited teachers on the picket line and joined ARISE at a massive support rally downtown yesterday.
ARISE published a recent blogpost today on "Why Chicago Teacher are Striking." Check it out:
The Chicago Teachers Union has been attempting to negotiate a fair contract since last November. Teachers have been working without a contract since June 30. Should there be a strike, it is not simply about compensation, although the Board of Education has proposed combining wage and health care proposals, resulting in a net loss in salary. Although legally the union can only strike over compensation issues, this strike is very much a fight to defend a quality public education for every Chicago student. It is, as CTU President Karen Lewis has declared, a struggle “for the soul of public education.”
In ten months of negotiation, the Board has refused to negotiate over core union issues that would create, as the union’s hallmark study declared “The Schools that Chicago’s Students Deserve.” The Board refuses to negotiate over classroom size; over having a nurse and social worker in every school; over having a library in every school; and over funding neighborhood schools instead of its drive to privatize public education through creating scores of non-union charter schools where teachers and parents have no voice. This is a strike that teachers and advocates of workers’ rights and supporters of public education across the nation are closely watching.
IWJ organizer Sung Yeon Choi-Morrow received this email from a friend and CPS teacher earlier today, a response to an incident when a CTU teacher was picketing and a passerby yelled "Why don't you work 40 hours a week like the rest of us?!"
Dear sir who yelled out "Why don't you work 40 hours a week like the rest of us?!" and then drove away before anyone could respond,
I would love to work 40 hours a week. That's a way better deal than working the 60-70 hours I work now.
I would also like to use the washroom whenever I need to and to take a full lunch break without being called to the office or prepare things for the afternoon. When I need a day off, it would be so nice if I could just take a day off rather than put in the several hours it takes to write sub plans beforehand only to spend the day worrying about my students.
I've already spent way more than $500 this school year (and it's September) and might get back $100. How much of your own money did you spend on work this year? I'd like to have a personal assistant who could take messages for me, answer emails, file, and make appointments with parents for me. Instead, I do all of that in addition to teaching my students.
When I'm sick, I'd like to take a sick day instead of stumbling to school because my students are taking a standardized test that is supposed to reflect everything they've learned in 9 months when they've only been in school for 6. I'd appreciate not having to pack up my classroom every year only to unpack it 2.5 months later. Thirty-one is a prime number that should not be equal to the number of students in my first grade class.
Despite all of the above, the thing I want most right now is to be back in my classroom with my students. I do what I do (and put up with everything else) because my students come first. So please, the next time you think that the media is the most reliable source of information, you might want to talk to a teacher near you. There are more than 20,000 of us in Chicago, and we'd be happy to have a civilized and informed conversation with you.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not on strike because my job is hard. I knew that from the beginning. I am fighting for a fair contract because—like I’ve seen on so many picketing signs—better teaching conditions translate to better learning conditions. Let’s really put children first and give them an education that serves them right.
Interfaith Worker Justice of East Tennessee is set to host a solidarity dinner for Thursday, the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin plans to join the solidarity rally on the steps of Wisconsin's statehouse, and nearly 100 people of faith offered prayer online.